Syrian air forces shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria on Saturday, Syrian and Israeli forces confirmed.
The Israeli military said that the F-16 pilots had ejected before the plane was destroyed.
The Israeli military had launched what it said was a large scale attack against Syrian aerial defense systems and Iranian targets in Syria.
"Twelve targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria were attacked," the military said in a statement.
"During the attack, anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards Israel, triggering alarms that were heard in Northern Israel," the military said.
Israeli military had earlier commented on the interception of an Iranian drone.
"A combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel. The aircraft was identified by the Aerial Defense Systems at an early phase and was under surveillance until the interception," the military said in a statement.
"In response, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) targeted Iranian targets in Syria," the military said, adding that they had accurately hit an Iranian UAV control facility confirmed.
Accurate hits of Iranian UAV control facility confirmed.— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) February 10, 2018
Syrian state TV said that several planes were destroyed in an attack launched by the regime to respond to the Israeli strikes. This was denied by Israeli military sources, that said only one F-16 jet was damaged by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
Rocket sirens then sounded in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli military said as Syrian TV said new Israeli raids were being carried out near Damascus and that Syrian air defenses had responded.
Israel has been warning of late of increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon. It fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah.
Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria. The targeting of an Iranian site in response, however, marks an escalation in the Israeli retaliation.
The military confirmed that the Syrian target - the unmanned aircraft's launch components - was successfully destroyed. The military's top military brass was meeting to coordinate Israel's continued response.
Israel's chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.
"This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn't know how it will end," he said in a special statement. "Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price."
(AP and Reuters)
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